Today, we’re here to shed some light on an organizational tool that can help your law firm:
- Streamline matter workflows
- Foster better team collaboration
- Swiftly respond to bottlenecks and other issues as they occur
In short, it can help your firm master matter management, all from within the convenience of your practice management software.
It’s called the Kanban board, and like many innovations in the modern legal field, it was first developed in . . . a 1940s Toyota automotive factory.
Kanban boards aren’t the new kid in town—but there’s a reason they’ve stuck around for more than seventy years, making their way from factory floors to software developers and law firms.
They’re simple—and they work.
What is Kanban?
Kanban is a Japanese word that translates to “billboard” or “signboard.”
In the context of project management, Kanban refers to a system of organization that was first developed by Toyota engineer Taiichi Ohno. A component of Lean methodology and Just-in-Time production, Ohno’s Kanban board system helped Toyota streamline production, organize complex manufacturing tasks, and minimize under- and overstocking of inventory.
In the early 2000s, David J. Anderson applied Ohno’s methods within the technology industry, and in recent years, law firms have begun to see the value in following suit.
But how does it work?
A Kanban board is a simple visual representation that uses “cards” or “notes” to track individual tasks by sorting them into columns.
For example, a simple Kanban board might have just three columns:
- To-do: Critical matter tasks that haven’t been started yet
- In-progress: Tasks that one or more team members are currently working on
- Completed: Tasks you’ve already finished (give yourself a pat on the back!)
And any time a task moves from one phase to another?
You can just move the card to the next row over. This way, every team member can see exactly where each task is in your workflow and what steps need to be taken to move a matter forward.
Technically, all you need to set up your own Kanban boards is an empty wall in your office and some sticky notes—but that won’t do your attorneys much good if they have to do work on the go.
Instead, law firms lean towards digital Kanban boards as a part of their legal practice management software. Digital boards can help team members quickly and responsively collaborate on matters, even from the comfort of their own desks (or their own homes).
Why use Kanban for law firms?
Ok, you might be thinking, Clearly, it worked for Toyota—but my firm isn’t exactly building sedans. Why Kanban for lawyers?
That’s a fair question, and one we hoped you would ask!
As it turns out, the Kanban board system is exceptionally flexible—and an ideal fit for the project management needs of busy law firms.
Kanban streamlines workflows
Legal teams need to efficiently manage complex legal processes, many of which involve dozens of tasks completed by multiple team members. Kanban boards give your law firm a simple and effective way to organize and track the progress of matters.
By creating a clear, visual reference point for the whole team, a Kanban board simplifies what needs to be done, assigns priority to tasks, and breaks down complex matters into manageable chunks.
And since the legal industry leans heavily on well-defined, routine, procedural work—such as contract review or discovery—it’s easy to map the tasks required for a matter onto the “stages” (or rows) in a Kanban board. You can also customize your Kanban boards to serve the needs of different teams at your firm (think boards for client intake, boards for invoicing and billing, etc.).
Kanban keeps law firms agile, flexible, and responsive
It would be great if every project went off without a hitch—but every attorney knows there are a hundred and one little things that can delay progress.
Maybe it took a few extra days to track down a client’s signature. Maybe due diligence took just a little bit longer than you expected. Or maybe one of your team members called in sick and all of their tasks are on hold.
Whatever the issue, Kanban boards can help you respond with agility.
By making it easier to instantly see what tasks are getting done and when, a Kanban board allows your firm to quickly adjust deadlines, reprioritize tasks, and reassign tasks as needed.
Giving team members transparency
In mid- to large-sized firms, multiple team members might work on any given matter—and these team members need to coordinate their workflows, even when things get delayed and deadlines shift (see above!).
Yes, you could have endless, lengthy meetings each day to coordinate progress. Or you can use Kanban boards to give your whole legal team a big-picture view of each project.
The Kanban system encourages team members to pitch in where they can to keep things on track. Each team member can quickly see which tasks are on track, which are delayed, and what needs to be done to keep the project on schedule.
Kanban boards also make it easier to notice when certain tasks are consistently holding things up.
If similar matters keep hitting the same snags and bottlenecks, it could mean that:
1) These tasks need to be handed off to less busy team members
2) You need more efficient processes for managing and completing them, OR
3) More time needs to be allotted for these tasks during the project planning phase (sometimes, it really does just take more time)
In any case, Kanban boards help your team track—and improve—your workflow efficiency.
Ready to start? We can Kanban with the best of them
Rocket Matter’s suite of project management tools comes complete with Kanban boards, easily customizable to suit any matter workflow or project type.
Our boards automatically display the number of days each task has been sitting in its current status, so your legal team can quickly see where things are moving and where they’ve stalled.